What are the perks of being an All-NBA caliber player on a team with a losing record? Other teams want to get you in their jersey.
It must be flattering — being the only coveted player on an NBA roster. And that’s what Bradley Beal is experiencing right now.
As Albert Lee pointed out earlier today, the Washington Wizards have received a number of calls from teams around the league inquiring about Beal’s. The Los Angeles Lakers were among the teams that gave Tommy Sheppard a ring, but the Lakers don’t have anything to even start a conversation.
A LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Beal trio would almost guarantee the Lakers a championship, but this scenario would only be possible if the Lakers had somehow kept the likes of Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball.
But that’s where the New Orleans Pelicans could come in — and things would get somewhat interesting.
In the previously-linked report, The Athletic’s Shams Charania mentioned the New Orleans Pelicans as one of the many teams asking about Beal’s availability.
Unlike the Lakers, the Pelicans might actually be able to put together an intriguing package — centered around the players they received from the Lakers for Anthony Davis.
For the Wizards to even entertain an offer, the interested team has to present a deal that would include a player with considerable upside, along with another young asset, and possibly a draft pick to boot.
New Orleans can do exactly that.
The Pelicans’ rebuild was expedited by Zion Williamson — a transformative franchise cornerstone who hasn’t failed to live up to the extraordinary hype he received coming out of college. The team’s front office has surrounded its young pieces, including Williamson, Ingram, Ball and Josh Hart with consistently-productive role players in Jrue Holiday, J.J. Redick and Derrick Favors.
Losing a future Hall-of-Fame player in Davis would have set the team back a decade, but they were lucky enough to strike gold in the NBA Lottery, and smart enough to build around Williamson in a way that alleviates him from the pressure other number one picks, like John Wall, faced in their rookie season.
To expedite the team’s rebuild some more — and to start knocking on the door of contenders — the Pelicans will need another established All-Star, someone to lead the Pelicans while Williamson, who’s already elite, develops further.
A player of Beal’s caliber is someone every team in the league wants. But the Pelicans, unlike most, are in a unique position because they can actually put together an offer worth considering, and one that might be favorable for both teams.
Make no mistake about it, though: Beal has repeatedly said he does not want to leave the Wizards, and any discussion involving him in a trade is purely based in speculation and fantasy, including this one.
But these dream-like scenarios do often come true for teams.
While Beal might be enjoying his place in Washington now, all of that could change overnight — and, if the Wizards fanbase were to be honest, how surprising would that be, after all?
Washington has to be proactive — not reactive. The Wizards, particularly with Ernie Grunfeld at the helm, were notorious for its failures at striking when they should have, only to get a laughable return in the not-too-distant future. That’s why the team has languished — and it’s why Grunfeld was fired.
Sheppard should be cautious as to not repeat those same mistakes. We all have hindsight. We can all agree that the team should have traded Beal for James Harden in 2012. But if similar opportunities arise again, Sheppard has to assert himself in ways his predecessor simply refused.
And to do that — to show the skill of foresight — Sheppard will have to take some risks along the way.
Looking at what the Pelicans can offer, it’s clear that they would be getting the best player back in any deal they put together that doesn’t involve Williamson. The next best thing, as already mentioned, would be a Ingram, Ball and possibly another young asset — like Jaxson Hayes or Josh Hart.
This return might leave some Wizards fans angry, but once those feelings subside, the truth would become a bit clearer — and that would be that Washington nabbed a 22-year-old All-Star in Ingram, and two young players with substantial upside in Ball and Hayes.
Now that he’s left Los Angeles and has been given freedom to make mistakes, as any young star should, Ingram has already blossomed into one of the league’s top scorers. In just his fourth season, Ingram has averaged over 24 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists — and he’s done so efficiently, making close to 47 percent of his total shots and 39 percent of his threes.The aforementioned numbers will earn him a max contract — and the Pelicans, or in this case, the Wizards, would be foolish not to lock him up long-term.
And that’s, again, at 22.
What will Ingram look like at 25? If he continues to develop at this rate, there’s no question that he will remain an All-Star, and possibly start being mentioned among the top 10-15 players in the league.
Ball and Hayes have similar attributes, albeit at different positions. Both are raw, athletic, and have years of development ahead of them before they shed the “potential” label turn it into “production.”
Ball, also 22, has shown a willingness to compete defensively, and, at 6’6,” he’s capable of defending one-through-three. Hayes’ skill-set would give Wizards fans JaVale McGee flashbacks — pure athleticism, length and dramatic blocks and dunks. The highlights, though, can only go so far, and that’s where the team’s investment in player development would prove to be worthy.
This deal likely won’t happen, just like the rest of the ideas that have been floated, both on fan sites and within NBA front offices. But it’s one that, if the Pelicans called and offered the Wizards, Sheppard would have to at least give some thought — if not actually pull the trigger.